SIGS met all day covering the following topics:
CODA (Children of Deaf Adults), discussed the need for more cooperation between CODAs and deaf parents, including information exchange about the particular experiences of hearing children with deaf parents, which would be helpful to young deaf couples with hearing children.
The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender SIG discussed the fact that Deaf gay and lesbians are some of the most marginalized members of the deaf community in many countries around the world. It is every NAD’s responsibility to ensure that those with any sexual orientation are acknowledged and accepted, and to fight any such discrimination. Information about equality for individuals of all sexual orientation needs to be taught in school.
Sign Language Interpreters: WFD will continue to work with UN agencies and WASLI to further the development and increase the professionalisation of interpreters. As a striking example, in India we can see a shocking ratio of 2 million deaf people to 300 interpreters, resulting in very little access for all those deaf people. Furthermore in some countries interpreters are working as volunteers.
Family and Seniors: the demographic of the deaf community is an aging one. This means that services need to be geared towards the senior members of the deaf community.
Technology: WFD has received constructive feedback to include more technology-related presentations within the Congress program. Deaf people are often early adopters of new technologies which have the potential to break down communication barriers. Feedback such as this will be shared with 2015 WFD Congress host, Turkey, to ensure that technology will be emphasized in the next congress program.
In addition to the reports of SIGs, several topics were discussed by WFD President Markku Jokinen and Honorary President Liisa Kauppinen:
Deaf Peoples Access to Health Care: With an absence of empirical evidence about the health issues of deaf citizens globally, the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) in conjunction with Dr Johannes Fellinger, of the Hospital of St. John of God in Linz, Austria, conducted an international survey of deaf leaders (Presidents of National Associations of the Deaf – NADs). Data was obtained from 44 countries. The research highlighted the fact that 2/3 of respondents stated that deaf people have more problems with health than their hearing counterparts.
More than half of respondents also reported that mental health problems or emotional disorders, such as depression, are among the most common health issues.
However the research also revealed flaws in health care delivery that compound such issues. 32 countries indicated that deaf people face more difficulty when trying to access health care.
This preliminary research underscores the need for comprehensive examination of health and services for deaf people around the world. NADs will be encouraged, through the WFD Congress resolutions, to initiate national studies to determine the extent of the problem. The results of these reports can be submitted to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The WFD was happy to collaborate with the Hospital of St. John of God in this endeavour and is pleased to discover that the hospital is known as a ‘deaf hospital’ because many of its medical staff are fluent in sign language. This has led many deaf people to attend its clinics when they are ill. The hospital also financed this WFD Health Resources Initiative, and the WFD thanks them for their support.
Wilma Newhoudt Druchen added that lack of information among health care professionals in the health systems create a lack of basic health care, which can be a principal cause of mental health issues among deaf people.
Natural Disasters: With an increase in natural disasters affecting all corners of the globe, we are seeing deaf people struggling to get information in times of emergency. Haiti, Japan, Chile and New Zealand are recent examples of such catastrophes. In Japan, a group of deaf people at the Deaf Club was washed out to sea by the tsunami when they had no visual warnings to evacuate.
Honorary President Lissa Kauppinen shared examples such as in Haiti where a group of deaf children escaped a collapsing classroom, only to be ushered to an area where they did not have access to food or water for many days, being unaware of the food distribution sites.
Practical ways national governments can ensure all its deaf citizens receive vital life saving information is to have all of its emergency broadcasts accompanied by sign language interpreters.
WFD will gather data and experiences from these recent catastrophes to develop guidelines for accessible emergency responses.
New Regional Secretariat for Western and Central Africa: Mr Jokinen proudly announced, after the election of a President and Board, the founding of the Western and Central African Regional Secretariat. The President is from Gambia. There are 2 representatives from English-speaking countries and 5 from French-speaking countries. 2 board members are women and 5 are men.
Final Press Conference: This is the last press conference for the Congress.
The WFD has appreciated the presence of the press at the Congress, and aims to make its work as visible and as transparent as possible. Mr Jokinen thanked the press, and said that the “Congress Resolutions and the final WFD press release will be made available after the closing ceremony tomorrow”.